The Untold Journey

The Life of Diana Trilling

Natalie Robins

Columbia University Press

The Untold Journey

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Pub Date: May 2017

ISBN: 9780231182089

424 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $32.95£27.95

Pub Date: May 2017

ISBN: 9780231544016

424 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£26.95

The Untold Journey

The Life of Diana Trilling

Natalie Robins

Columbia University Press

Throughout her life, Diana Trilling (1905-1996) wrote about profound social changes with candor and wisdom, first for The Nation and later for Partisan Review, Harpers, and such popular magazines as Vogue and McCalls. She went on to publish five books, including the best-selling Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor, written when she was in her late seventies. She was also one half of one of the most famous intellectual couples in the United States.

Diana Trilling’s life with Columbia University professor and literary critic Lionel Trilling was filled with secrets, struggles, and betrayals, and she endured what she called her “own private hell” as she fought to reconcile competing duties and impulses at home and at work. She was a feminist, yet she insisted that women’s liberation created unnecessary friction with men, asserting that her career ambitions should be on equal footing with caring for her child and supporting her husband. She fearlessly expressed sensitive, controversial, and moral views, and fought publicly with Lillian Hellman, among other celebrated writers and intellectuals, over politics. Diana Trilling was an anticommunist liberal, a position often misunderstood, especially by her literary and university friends. And finally, she was among the “New Journalists” who transformed writing and reporting in the 1960s, making her nonfiction as imaginative in style and scope as a novel. The first biographer to mine Diana Trilling’s extensive archives, Natalie Robins tells a previously undisclosed history of an essential member of New York City culture at a time of dynamic change and intellectual relevance.
Natalie Robins has pulled off something of a coup. In an age when so-called objectivity has come under justified suspicion and attack, she has managed to write an exquisitely objective and fair account of one of the most contentious and arguably least objective intellectuals: the former Trotskyist and self-described liberal anticommunist, Diana Trilling. Robins documents Trilling's interactions not only with institutions like the CIA but also—in person and in print—with an array of intriguing personalities, among them Marilyn Monroe, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, and the entire Jewish intellectual establishment, including Alfred Kazin, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, Sidney Hook, Meyer Schapiro, and of course, Diana’s husband, Lionel. In the end what we get, in addition to a full history of Diana, is the equivalent of a dual biography of ‘Di and Li.’ Read it, laugh, and learn. Victor S. Navasky, author of The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Enduring Power and co-editor of The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry
Robins’ absorbing life-study of Diana Trilling is rich in surprises. The book is a fine-grained portrait of the celebrated Trilling marriage, of Lionel’s private weaknesses, and of his carefully concealed dependence on Diana’s engagement in the making of his books. The story told includes Diana Trilling’s campaign for her own place in the world of letters and deftly characterizes the political landscape of their time. The finished portrait is shocking but humane, and is drawn with wit and art. Norman Rush, author of Whites, Mating, Mortals and Subtle Bodies
Diana Trilling—difficult, imperious, ‘fierce and not elegant,’ haughty, domineering, ambitious and witty; a ‘family feminist’; wife, mother, essayist, and editor; anticommunist and anti-McCarthy: she was all of this, and so much more. Robins’ incisive and illuminating biography offers us a vitally revealing perspective on more than a half-century of culture wars and the New York intellectuals who so delighted in fighting them. David Nasaw, author The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy and Andrew Carnegie
The Untold Journey possesses a novelistic vividness and immediacy. Robins makes Diana Trilling, in all her complexity, come alive on the page. A thoroughly absorbing book about one of the most famous American intellectuals of the second half of the 20th century. Ross Posnock, Columbia University
Plunging straight into Trilling’s story, Robins never fails to entertain as she guides readers adeptly through the midcentury world of the New York Jewish intelligentsia. She even offers a twist ending for Lionel. Robins treats Trilling even-handedly. . . . The book is a fine, important treatment of an undervalued thinker. Publishers Weekly
Robins does a solid job of rehabilitating a significant literary and cultural figure of the 20th century, a woman who spent much of her career in her husband’s shadow. Kirkus Reviews
Robins’ book is for the true bibliophile. Meticulously researched and documented, the biography is a detailed foray into the lives of a generation of writers and into the mind of literary critic, writer and intellectual Diana Trilling. Ms.
Preface
1. Escape Into Fiction
2. Undertakings
3. Prolegomenon
4. Isolation and Desperation
5. The Rest of Our Lives
6. The Greatest Service
7. The Nation Calls
8. Not Merely a Critic's Wife
9. Glowing
10. Oh Be Brave
11. Guilt Makes Us Human
12. Weaving
13. Subversive Sex
14. A Limited Kind of Celebrity
15. At a Table
16. Just Close Your Eyes
17. Not Giving a Damn
18. Her Own Place
19. Re-creation and Imagination
Epilogue: Arcadia
Acknowledgments
Source Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Natalie Robins is the author of four books of poetry and five works of nonfiction, among them Copeland's Cure: Homeopathy and the War Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine (2005); The Girl Who Died Twice: The Libby Zion Case and the Hidden Hazards of Hospitals (1995); and Alien Ink: The FBI's War on Freedom of Expression (1992), which won the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award. She lives with her husband in New York City.